Agreement reached in black activist case with lawmakers
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee prosecutor confirmed Wednesday that his office has reached a resolution involving a young black activist’s high-profile court case.
Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott says the agreement states that 24-year-old Justin Jones will have no contact with Republican Reps. Glen Casada and Debra Moody and Jones will be barred from the lawmakers’ office building until April 22. However, Jones will be allowed to visit the state Capitol after temporarily being banned by a judge.
“The victims are in agreement with this resolution,” Northcott said in an email. “They are hopeful that he will learn from this situation and take advantage of this opportunity. Other than the dismissal order, there will be no further action on these cases so long as he abides by the above conditions.”
Jones was one of two protesters arrested in February on misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct charges for allegedly throwing a cup of liquid toward Casada — who was the Tennessee House speaker at the time — and Moody in an elevator during a demonstration at the Capitol.
He was eventually instructed not to contact Casada and Moody, as well as being told he could not return to the Statehouse while his case moved through the courts. However, his case quickly received national attention amid allegations that Casada’s office doctored an email to frame Jones for a bond violation.
Both Casada and then-top aide Cade Cothren denied the accusations, but Northcott was assigned to investigate. Casada and Cade later resigned from their leadership posts over a separate scandal involving explicit text messages about women.
Northcott eventually told the court in July that he had spoken with the legislative IT department and concluded an email from Jones to Casada had gotten stuck in a spam filter, making it appear it was sent after Jones was banned from contacting Casada. Jones’ attorneys have rejected this explanation. Jones has said that he wrote the email to Casada before his arrest and that someone changed the date to make it look like it was afterward.
Northcott has faced his own scrutiny for making anti-gay and anti-Islamic remarks, which sparked outcries for him to be removed from Jones’ case.
Northcott has been facing fallout after writing in a social media post in April that Islam’s belief system is “evil, violent and against God’s truth” and that being Muslim is no different than “being part of the KKK, Aryan Nation, etc.”
Also in April, video footage recorded a year earlier surfaced showing Northcott commenting that gay couples shouldn’t receive domestic violence protections because such laws are designed to protect the “sanctity of marriage.”
A judge determined, however, that Northcott could continue handling Jones’ case.
Casada said he was unaware of all of the specifics of the resolution Wednesday but said he was comfortable with the overall outcome.
“The DA asked me if I wanted to prosecute. I said no, but there does need to be some discipline for (Jones’) out of controlled anger (issues),” Casada said in a text message to The Associated Press.
Jones said in a statement that Casada has “evaded” testifying under oath while he and his legal team have appeared in court seven times to “tell the truth.”
“Rather than constant delays, we are grateful for closure and hope Mr. Casada has learned standards of ethics, honesty, and non-racist behavior that are befitting of public office,” Jones said. “We will continue to seek accountability for Tennesseans.”
Most recently, Jones filed to run for Congress in Nashville this week and will face incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper in the 2020 Democratic primary.